Western-backed opposition in Russia isn’t ‘liberal & democratic’ but leaders are actually ‘agents of influence’ – Foreign Ministry

Political campaign groups in Russia that receive funding from abroad don’t have the country’s best interests at heart, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry has complained, arguing that they really exist to serve foreign states instead.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told listeners to the Moscow Says radio station on Thursday that these groups shouldn’t be considered as legitimate pro-reform movements because, in her view, they take orders from outside the country.

“If people or political forces are supported from abroad, financed from abroad and pursue a policy that is beneficial to foreign countries, while opposing [our] national interests in favor of the interests of other states,” she said, “what kind of liberal-democratic forces are they really?”

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“There is no need to hide behind this lofty label, we have another way of describing them. They are agents of influence,” Zakharova argued. “They pursue the interests of other nations on the territory of our country.”

A number of political groups, including the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) founded by jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny, have been formally designated as ‘foreign agents’ by the Russian Ministry of Justice.

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On Wednesday, a small but influential group of medics, the Doctors’ Alliance, was also handed the same status, which they will have to display publicly. The organization claims to represent healthcare workers operating in tough conditions, but critics accuse them of designing publicity stunts for the sole benefit of Western journalists.

At the same time, the Foreign Ministry press chief said that the US and the EU were working to pursue a policy of “containment” against Russia. The tools at their disposal, she said, “are unilateral sanctions, political pressure, interference in internal affairs and disinformation campaigns.”

The reason for this, she alleged, is that Moscow is a convenient bogeyman for Washington. “Russophobia is a magic wand that comes to the rescue when you need to show that you are supposedly united,” Zakharova claimed. “The US will see as an enemy anyone who competes with them in any area.”

Tensions between Russia and the West have risen in the past week, after Washington and Brussels simultaneously unveiled a package of sanctions against Russian officials. It claims those targeted were responsible for the jailing of Navalny and “human rights violations” during the policing of subsequent protests.

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